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Monday, 7th October 2013 at 10:39 am

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Workers Suffer Discrimination Due to Mental Illness – Study

By Staff Reporter,

More than one in five Australians have experienced discrimination in the workplace due to mental illness, according to a study by the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA).

The research, conducted for World Mental Health Day on October 10, asked people if they had witnessed discrimination at their place of work, due to their mental illness or the mental illness of a co-worker.

“When 22 per cent of people surveyed tell us that they have witnessed discrimination in the workplace, relating to mental illness, it shows that we have a serious problem with stigma in this country,” MHCA CEO Frank Quinlan said.

The study found 69 per cent of people were uncomfortable disclosing a mental illness to their employer and a third of people said they would disclose a mental illness and more than a third said they never would.

“It is concerning that 35 per cent of respondents completely ruled out the possibility of talking about mental health, even if it was appropriate to do so. That’s a big problem, especially if it means people not seeking help they need, when they need it,” Quinlan said.

“These results demonstrate that some people have a real fear about potentially negative consequences should they tell their employers and their colleagues that they are mentally unwell.

“The reality is that for the vast majority of people with a mental illness, openness and conversations do help employees, employers and workmates to contribute through meaningful and successful employment.

“We need to have a goal for our society to make it acceptable for individuals to talk about mental health in the workplace and to make it ok to seek help when they need it, without fear or stigma.

“To assist in this goal, ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, we want people to recognise that we all have an important role to play in our own mental health. We want employers and employees to visit 1010.org.au, make a personal mental health promise and then share it.

“Small steps like this can really help to break down stigma and help change a negative culture in Australian workplaces.

“In addition, there is a great deal that employers are already doing to create mentally healthy workplaces including: demonstrating open dialogue about good mental health, raising awareness using online resources, training managers and staff in mental health first aid, and instigating mental health policies and practices.”

Key findings:

  • 33 per cent of people with a current or past mental illness have disclosed it to their current employer. This includes 49 per cent of those who believe they still have a mental illness.

  • When hypothetically asked if they were to have a mental illness in the future, would they tell a future employer, 35 per cent said they would not tell, 29 per cent said they would.

  • Three-quarters of people surveyed would feel uncomfortable telling their employer they were experiencing a mental illness relevant to their work, including 61 per cent of those who say they still have a mental illness and 71 per cent of people who claim to never have had one.

  • A large majority of Australians – more than eight in 10 – believe schizophrenia, depression, bipolar and anxiety all diminish a person’s ability to undertake paid work. A high 42 per cent believe schizophrenia reduces this ability “a lot”.

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